By Heli Tepponen

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From curly coated housecat to an extreme wavy alien


All Cornish rexes worldwide have the same forefather, a cat called Kallibunker. This first curly coated ancestor was born the 21st July 1950. Kallibunker was one of five kittens born to tortie female called Serena. Serena was an ordinary farm cat and was living in countryside of Cornwall, Bodmin Moor, United Kindom. It is estimated that Serena was born 1948 and it is known that she had normal straight coat. There is some conjecture that the father of the litter could have been Serena’s red brother who lived in the same farm. There are no known photos of Serena. Serena’s owner was Mrs. Nina Ennismore. Kallibunker was redwhite male and he had different kind of curly coat, his littermates had normal coat. Mrs. Nina Ennismore named this odd looking cat ”breed” rex as she had also curly coated rex rabbits and Kallibunker’s coat looked the same.

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When Kallibunker grew older it was apparent that it was not only his coat that was different, he also was more elegant with higher legs than his siblings. There are some photos of Kallibunker. It is known that those black/white photos on the right are for sure Kallibunker, the red cat in photos on the left may be some other rex from the early years of the breed. Mrs. Ennismore showed her rex coated cat to her veterinary who recommended Mrs Ennismore to contact geneticist A. C. Jude.

Mr. Jude adviced Mrs. Ennismore to mate Kallibunker with Kallibunker’s mother Serena. In that litter there were three kittens: normal coated female and two curly coated males. One of the males died at the age of 7 months but the other one named Poldhu was used in breeding. A. C. Jude wrote a report about Kallibunker and curly coat and that was published 1952. Unfortunately the article did not get much attention and was mostly unnoticed.Poldhu apparently was a fertile tortie male and it is thought he was chimeira. Unfortunately he was sterilized and the tissue samples were lost so it could not be studied. The first Cornish rex matings were mixing Kallibunker and his son Poldu with housecats and British shorthairs.

In Pawpeds database there are 8 kittens of Kallibunker listed.
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Some years later Mrs. Ennismore ended having over 40 cats and due to financial difficulties most cats were put down, including Serena and Kallibunker. By the late 1950’s Mrs. Nina Ennismore had stopped breeding Cornish Rexes and Mr. Brian Sterling-Webb continued to work with the breed. By this time, there were only two male Cornish Rexes left in Britain. One of whom was Poldhu and after he was accidentally sterilize there was only one fertile Cornish rex in UK, Sham Pain Chas who was a son of Kallibunker and Serena. This male was mated with four females that were housecats and a Burmese. With these kittens the breeding was founded again. In UK after Mrs. Ennismore quit breeding it took several years until one curly coated kitten was born, she was Du-Bu Lambtex and photo of this cat was published in Daily Mirror magazine in 1960. Unfortunately I did not manage to find the article in bigger size, just this small photo (up). It was to celebrate 10 years anniversary of the Cornish rex breed and it was written in the article that the cat was the only curly coated cat in UK.

Ms Beryl Cox saw the article and contacted the newspaper and said she also had curly coated male cat named Kirlee. It was thought Kirlee also had Cornish rex gene and there were plans to use Kirlee in Cornish rex breeding. Cats that were know Cornish rex gene carriers and Kirlee produced only normal coated kittens. It was apparent that Kirlee had different rex gene and Kirlee became the foundation cat of Devon rex breed. There were some kittens that had both genes, Cornish and Devon and these were called ”dubbelrexes”. Cornish rex gene was called ”gene 1” and Devon rex gene ”gene 2”. Kirlee can be found in the pedigree of most Cornish rexes but later there has not been any intentional matings between these two curly coated cat breeds.

Due to heavy out crossing, the Cornish was losing it’s slender type. The great-great-great grandson of Kallibunker, a blue boy by the name of Rio Vista Kismet who was bred by Miss Jeanne Jeffrey from Calgary, was imported from Canada 1965 by Mrs. Alison Ashford. Kismet managed to enable breeders to bring back the Cornish Rex to it’s original ”slender” type.
Mr Brian Sterling-Webb was well known colourpoint cat breeder who was also interested in keeping rex breeds alive. He founded 1966 new club The Colourpoint Rex-Coated & And Other Variety Club in UK to promote breeding of both rex breeds. Sterling-Webb worked to get Cornish rex official recognition in GCCF and the rex breeds were given official recognition 1967 in GCCF and also champion status immediately. Mr. Sterling-Webb owned one of only fertile Cornish male at the time, Champagne Chas.Yearly days it was a bit confusing what breed cats were, as can be seen in this pedigree. Some are registered as Cornish and some as Devon rex and some are both. This is Annelida Curly Coon and her daughter Annelida Woodbine.

Here is their pedigree. Both cats are registered as Cornish rex but they have more Kirlee (DRX) in their pedigree. 
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In UK the first Cornish rexes were mixes between housecat, Burmese and British shorthairs. So their type was getting heavy. Then more elegant cat breeds were used in outcrosses; Siamese, Russian blue and Havana brown. From the beginning Cornish has been a mixture very different type cats.

In Pawpeds it can be seen that many cats were used in Cornish rex breed and the list of foundation cats is long. There are Siamese, Oriental shorthair, Russian blue, Havana brown, American shorthair, Devon rex, Tonkanese, Abyssinian, Burmese, housecat, German rex and even Persian cats in pedigrees. Very soon cats were exported from UK to other European countries. Cornish rex were popular in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland. We must remember those days there were strict travel limitations for cat because of rabies. So the active change of breeding cats was between the countries that did not require quarantine or extensive paperwork. Some active breeders were also in Germany, Holland and Belgium. Other parts of Europe the Cornish rex has been quite rare and still is. Last 10 years Cornish rex has become increasingly popular in Easter European countries as Russia, Latvia, Belorussia and Poland.

Cornish rex in USA

In 1956 Life magazine published an article about Cornish rex and the breed got wide interest around world. The next year 1957 Mrs. Frances Blancheri living in San Diego, California imported the first Cornish rex to USA. She imported from UK a pregnant female Lamorna Cove who had been mated with her father Kallibunker. Lamorna Cove got four kittens, the foundation cats of Cornish rex breeding in USA. The litter was born 11.4.1957 and two of these kittens were later used in Cornish rex breeding: female Diamond Lill Fan-T-Cee and male Marmaduke of Daz-Zling. The first born cornish rex female in USA Diamond Lill Fan-T-Cee, daughter of Lamorna Cove and Kallibunker. The first registered cornish rex in USA, Marmaduke of Daz-Zling. He is the littermate of Diamond Lill Fan-T-Cee. In USA the first litters of Cornish rexes were mixes with Siamese and oriental shorthair so even the early days USA type Cornish were developing to more elegant type than in UK. Very soon Cornish rexes very typed to more elegant and refined type. In USA not outcrosses with another breed were made. In next 20-30 years the Cornish rex were developing two separate ways – elegant ”USA type” and heavier ”European type”.

Cornish rex standard in Fife

In this paper I concentrate to study changes in standard in Fife. Cornish rex has rather different standards in different organizations. But I want to see how the breed has developed in Fife, not to compare different standards in CFA, TICA or GCCF. The original standard of Cornish rex was published in GCCF, UK 1967. When the first Cornish rexes entered to Fife the same GCCF standard was used. Both rex breeds Cornish and Devon had the same standard and they were judged together as one breed. Rexes had breed number 33. Separating the two rex breeds was first time discussed in Fife General Assembly 1967, in Paris. That time the two red breeds were not separated.
Next year 15.11.1968 in Fife General Assembly in Brussels, France proposed again to divide Cornish and Devon rexes to two separate breeds. GCCF standards were accepted to both of these two rex breeds. Their breed numbers were 33 for Cornish rex and 33a to Devon rex. For many years all Cornish rexes were judged together in one group. The breed was divided to seven color groups 1992.
The status of changes is listed in Fife website and it starts from 1994. These changes in Cornish rex standard are found in the list:
2002 Both rex breeds’ color groups were divided to new ones and now there are 9 color groups (before 7 color groups).
2003 word ”curly” was removed from the description of the coat. Also same year colors red/cream/tortie smoke colors were transferred to same color group as without silver. 
2007 new standard for Cornish rex
2012 Eye size added medium to large. Rule for all breeds in color groups the change came also 2012 when ems codes for ”high white” cats (with ems codes 02 and 01) the compulsory eye color was added. Now all cats registered as 01 or 02 needs to have also ems code for eye color. Other amounts of white cannot have ems codes for eye color, even there are blue eyed and odd eyed cats that are 03 or 09. That is some weird change of registration rules.
Color has never had any points in Cornish rex and that is still remaining even there has been discussion about adding some points for color.

Comparing the standards in time

For some reason it seems to impossible to find the info when the first Fife standard was written. It is fact that at the beginning Cornish rex standard was the same in GCCF but I cannot find anything what was the motivation to start to change the standard in Fife, when that was done and by who. But I can compare the first standard from 1968, the 1994 standard and what changes has been done after that until today the standard 2014.

Cornish rex standard 1968

The first standard was quite short and not very detailed. That was typical to those days standards, they were fairly cursory. The first impression is that the coat was highly important. Cornish rex was the first curly coated cat breed and that made it different from all another cats. So the coat is described quite detailed and it had total of 50 points. Coat was short, think and plushy and should curl, wave or ripple particularly on back and tail. Another important part was body, it was firm, elegant but muscular. Body had 25 points. Body was supposed to be hard and muscular, slender and medium in length. Other parts of the cat were less important, except ears were given 10 points. Ears were supposed to be big, high set and wide at base. The head had only 5 points, head shape is quite well described with medium wedge, flat skull and straight profile. Eyes were medium size and oval shape and had 5 points. Whiskers and eyebrows and crinkled but has no points. In this first standard color had no points and all colors were accepted but fault was to have asymmetrical white markings, except in tortie and white cat. Early Cornish rex were mainly solid or with small white parts or mitted. So called ”high white” Cornish rexes did not appear yet. Faults were bare patches, shaggy or too short coat, British type (?) head, too long wedge, small ears, cobby body, lack of firm muscles and short or bare tail. The typing was to distinguish Cornish rex as slender muscular cat with curly coat, big ears and long legs.

Cornish rex standard 1994

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Standard is written appendix 1. The 1994 standard is much more detailed than the original one. The coat is still most important but it has lost some points, now being 35, before 50. Coat is now wanted to be short and dense but slightly plushy, curly or wavy, particularly on back and tail. Tail must be long, fine and tapering and well covered with fur. That was quite impossible as most rexes do have more or less studtail. The head is now given lots more points; it was only 5 and now 25 points. Head shape is described with more details, head is getting longer and it is written with mathematical formula: head length about 1/3 greater than the maximum width. Also head should not be too broad and flat skull. Ears are the same but now also chin and profile are given description. Chin is to be strong and profile straight. It is clear that head shape and parts of head are with more importance and there seems to be intention to type the head more slender and elegant than before. Earlier rounded head is now more angular.
Not major changes in body, still needs to be muscular and hard. Description of legs is separated to own and they are more detailed described, so Cornish legs were coming longer and slender. There is no point for color and reference about asymmetrical white is taken out. Those days there were more rexes whit white and there obviously was intention that all colors are equally accepted. In shows the Cornish rexes were divided to 7 color groups. Ideal Cornish rex is described in 1994 appendix 2.

Cornish rex standard 2014

There were many big changes and additions in standard made 2007. After that only few small changes were done. Standard is written in appendix 3.

Standard is now typing Cornish rex to more slender, elegant and graceful appearance. The SOP has remained the same from 1994 but standard has many another changes. Some liked the changes were improvements, some think the standard is getting too close to CFA standard. The coat still has most points; coat is now described as short, wavy, dense, close lying to body. Coat is supposed to be wavy particularly on back and sides. Shaggy coat and bare batches are faults. The tail is long, fine and tapering but not need to be full covered. The words ”preferably without bald patches” allow some coat missing from the tail. All colors are accepted.
Head has the same 25 points but head shape and description has changed a lot. Now head is supposed to be egg shape, slightly longer than wide and equal width from cheekbones to skull. Flat skull, straight nose and strong chin are still here. Too long and too broad head are faults. Eyes are now medium to large so eyes are getting bigger. Slanted eyes are fault so also eye shape in changing to more open. Earlier oval is now fault, shape must be oval.
Body is supposed to have delicate bone structure; it is hard and muscular but elegant. So body is getting more elegant – here some breeders wanted to add words ”extreme elegant” but luckily that did not go pass. Cornish rex can be elegant without being extreme elegant. The size is still medium just as in the first standard.
Cornish rex cats in cat show 1963. It is very difficult to see they are Cornish rexes but apparently they are as it says so in the photo. There is no info what kittens these are but most probably they are Senty-Twix Crispavi, Senty-Twix Crispivi and Senty-Twix Crispo breed by Mrs. Hardy . Their inbreeding % is 25,8 even their mother is XSH and there are Burmese, British shorthair and housecat in their four generation pedigree.

Someone has to invent the wheel again – to start breeding housecat looking rexes. This is my 75 % straight coated Cornish rex kitten from registered mix litter FI*Piupaws Cavia Porcellus.

By Heli Tepponen